Mark Valencia wanted to write a book that would pique kids’ interest in the joys of reading. But he also wanted it to educate kids and their parents about autism.
Valencia, a Brentwood native and resident, invites young readers to join Gavin on a voyage into the imaginative world of Gabriel’s autistic mind. “Gabriel’s My Vida Logo,” Valencia’s first book, is a tale that celebrates the power of imagination, friendship, and empathy.
In this story told by both Gabriel and his dad, Gavin is introduced to Gabriel, the captain of a spaceship who takes him on a journey through the landscapes of Gabriel’s mind. As Gavin explores this realm, he soon realizes that this captivating world can also be overwhelming, and even frightening at times.
Gabriel proves to be a skilled and compassionate guide, helping Gavin navigate the complexities of his imaginative world.
Valencia draws inspiration from his own sons, who served as catalysts for his writing journey. He discovered his passion for storytelling through his experiences as a youth sports coach -- coaching the freshman football team at Liberty High -- and talent acquisition professional.
Through his book, Valencia wants to ignite a love of reading and foster creativity in young readers. Valencia wrote the book “in collaboration with my autistic son, Gabriel, who is limited verbally to get his voice out there,” he said in an email. “As a father we want to support our children however we can and this is my way of helping him. To be honest, I wrote the story with him 10 years ago but never thought about publishing it until earlier this year.”
Valencia said a particular situation gave him the impetus to write it. “I decided to publish the story that I privately wrote 10 years ago because my wife, Melissa, loved the story and has always asked me to publish it. So I did. The reason I wrote it 10 years ago was during the early years of Gabriel’s diagnosis. It was difficult for me to understand what he was thinking and why he was obsessed with his logos. Writing the book helped me have a better understanding of that. Also, to write a story for Gavin, Gabriel’s younger brother to understand him too.
The story is told by two people -- Gabriel and his dad, but Valencia said readers will know who is talking. “The book explains this,” he said. “First line on top is Gabriel’s voice, bottom is my explanation of the story and his feelings.
Valencia said the book also offers lessons to adults, especially those with autistic children.
“What is important for adults is to learn empathy and patience for neuro-diverse humans,” he said. “Humans with autism are a fabric of our society and we need to take the time to understand their pace.”
“Like the story, a boy could be drawing logos on the blacktop and there could be so much more going on in their mind than meets the eye. Children like my son use their custom anchors to communicate with us in our world. It could be logos, singing, art, history facts, etc... We just need to be patient to hear them out. Also, I want adults and children to never take for granted their mental privilege. Many children and adults like my son do not have that luxury to be heard and do the things they want, when they want like many of us.”
Valencia said writing the book “was effortless. Publishing it and allowing others into our world was the hardest part. Opening yourself to criticism and critique isn’t easy, but the story comes from love so I hope others feel that too.”
“The only gain we are hoping for is for autism awareness and for parents and their kids to have empathy for autistic children and adults,” he added. “The book is very personal as the characters are named after Gavin and Gabriel; who are my son’s names. To be honest, any monetary profit will be going to my son Gabriel’s Education Fund.
Even though this is Valencia’s first book, he said he is planning to release a coloring book that is an addition to the children’s book on Amazon and a follow- up of Gabriel’s My Vida Logo series telling the history of one of the logos he loves.
“Gabriel’s My Vida Logo” was released in May 2023. It is self-published and available in print and digital formats through Amazon Kindle Direct. https://a.co/d/8DHablF.
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